Predictions for 2012: Now or Never for the Standard Model of Physics
- in the beginning of the beginning, the exploding hot universe was full of elementary particles, but the particles had no mass. The universe also contained force fields, and one of those fields, the Higgs, cooled and condensed into a quantum liquid. The liquid dragged on the other particles, giving them mass. The liquid rippled, and the ripples formed a new particle, called the Higgs.
It reads like a just-so story. But it’s the basis of the Standard Model of physics. And so far, physicists have found every particle the Standard Model has predicted but one: the Higgs itself. Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland have been looking for the Higgs for more than a year, and by next winter they will either have found it or they’ll know they won’t. “It’s not obvious,” says Andrei Gritsan, a Johns Hopkins University physicist working at the LHC, “which scenario would be more interesting.”
If they don’t find it? Maybe it’s there but its signature is different. Or maybe the Standard Model has a fatal flaw. And if that’s the case, nobody has even a just-so story to account for mass. “It’s very exciting,” Bagger says. “It’s very scary.”